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Conservation Science for a Healthy Planet

Major changes in farming practices needed to offset nutrient loss from increased winter rainfall due to climate change

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August 3, 2017 see full ScienceDaily article here

To combat repeated, damaging storm events, which strip agricultural land of soil and nutrients, farmers are already adopting measures to conserve these assets where they are needed.

But in a new paper in the journal Nature Communications, researchers investigating nutrients in runoff from agricultural land warn that phosphorus losses will increase, due to climate change, unless this is mitigated by making major changes to agricultural practices….include a more judicious use of fertilizer including strategies to use soil phosphorus more efficiently, or physical measures to reduce the losses of nutrients from fields.

…”This paper should alert policy makers and government to the help and support that farmers will need to achieve the scale of agricultural change that may be necessary to keep up with the increase in pollution due to climate change.”

Nutrients, such as phosphorus and nitrogen are essential to crop and animal growth, but too many nutrients cause algal blooms in rivers and lakes. These suffocate fish and other organisms and require costly remediation by water supply companies. Fertilisers and manures washed off in storms are a major source of nutrients, with more than 60 per cent of the nitrogen and 25 per cent of the phosphorus in our rivers coming from agriculture

… Our study therefore showed that the main factor driving increased future phosphorus losses was the projected increase in winter rainfall

M. C. Ockenden, M. J. Hollaway, K. J. Beven, et al. Major agricultural changes required to mitigate phosphorus losses under climate change. Nature Communications, 2017; 8 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41467-017-00232-0

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